Category: Urban Exploration

09/19/06

Permalink 12:10:42 am, Categories: Urban Exploration, 600 words   English (US)

St. Louis Power Building

On the same day that Chris, Hunter, Wolffy and I checked out the Goodfellow Plant, we actually began our exploring at the St. Louis Power Building (which I have changed the name of, because the building is in such pristine condition and because it is fairly high profile). This is one of the more interesting abandoned buildings in St. Louis, in my opinion, if for no other reason that its spacious open areas and intact switches.

I had been to this building on a previous occasion, but because it was after dark I had not been able to take any photos. I am always afraid my flash will attract too much attention. On this occasion, however, I was amazed at the space and feel of this building. I spent hours there with two fellow explorers that I had met doing an article for the Riverfront Times wandering the many subterranean areas and tunnels. One part in particular intrigued me: a shaft in the basement with a ladder leading down into the darkness. A large hose also ran into the shaft. Out of the three of us, I was the only one willing to climb on and descend into the shadows. As I began to climb, I looked at the walls and noticed that they were not smooth, but appeared very rough and uneven. I couldn't tell because of the darkness if this was a man-made or natural shaft, but I was struck by the water that seemed to be running down the walls. It was as if I was getting rained on. After I had climbed down (and this is not an eggageration) about five stories, I looked up at the other guys way above me and for the first time was regretting my decision to follow this ladder into the unknown. This was one of those ladders that was extendable, and I became nervous thinking about what would happen if it suddenly collapsed. I would be at the bottom of a pit five stories below the basement of an abandoned building in the middle of the night. At the bottom of the ladder, I emerged into a large flooded chamber. The ladder continued down into the water, but I couldn't tell how deep it was. I don't know what this chamber was or why someone was going to considerable lengths to pump it free of water, but when I visited the power building on this occasion, the water in the chamber came up to the ver top of the shaft. I guess they had given up on draining it. There were a number of other underground tunnels and passages that we found on that night, and many that appear to have been bricked off. We also found a trapdoor to the roof, and spent a long time watching the barges pass by on the river and admiring the St. Louis nightime skyline.

The St. Louis Power Building was built in 1901 for use in supplying energy for the 1904 World's Fair. In 1945 it was converted into a transformer and switch house and operated in this capacity until it was decommisioned in 1978. All of the transformers and switches are still there, although it seems that many of the parts have been removed to render them inoperable.

There are plans for the building's future, and it has been cleaned up considerably. There is very little debris or decay in many area, and the yard equipment in one corner suggests that the building is not really "abandoned." I am excited to see what is done with this building, considering its history and strange beauty.

09/05/06

Permalink 07:58:40 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 769 words   English (US)

St. Louis Army Ammunition Plant

A few weekends ago Chris, Hunter, Wolffy and I met up for some relaxing weekend exploring. We began north of the Landing inspecting the many empty warehouses there, finally realizing that most of them are pretty darn secure. We did, however, find a building that appeared to be empty that had a doorbell at one of the entrances. When I pushed it, we all stopped dead in our tracks as the sound of a siren echoed within. For a minute I thought that the owner of the building had set a trap for curious explorers like us. After ringing the bell again, though, it was apparent that the sound it made was in fact a siren. How cool is that?

After a little discussion, we decided to head a few miles down the highway to a gigantic abandoned munitions plant, somewhere I had wanted to explore for an extremely long time but had never had the courage to actually explore....and for good reason. If you live in St. Louis and use the interstate highway system at all, you are familliar with the munitions plant. It is RIGHT off the highway and getting to it requires walking through a very spacious and very in-the-open empty field. I finally convinced myself that motorists on the highway were more interested in keeping their cars on the road than on what was going on at the abandoned plant, and we headed out.

The St. Louis Army Ammunition Plant was built in the 1940s and used extensively for the production of ammunition during World War II. It was later reactivated and used during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The site continued to be used by different Army Reserve units (mainly the other newer buildings on the site, not the large plant building) until it was finally closed down in 1998. I have heard that the site is still owned by the military and that there are plans to raze it in the future, but I don't know anything more specific than that. One of the guys who accompanied me on that day was driving by a few days later and said he saw a number of guys with hard hats onsite walking around. Perhaps we visited just in time. This seems to usually be the case for me: I visit a place, and then two weeks later someone begins a renovation project.

The guys and I found an easy entrance point into the property after very little searching. Right away I was a little nervous because the cars on the highway were RIGHT THERE, but we had come this far, and I was "sure it's fine." The main building was massive. There was nothing in the way of old machinery inside. I'm sure that the government gutted the building fairly well when they abandoned the site. The catwalks were still intact, however, and after very little time I was ascending a ladder to the very top of the structure. From this vantage, one is given an amazing panoramic view of how huge the munitions plant really is. Sadly, none of my comrades had balls enough to join me on the highest catwalks. How I longed for White Rabbit's company.

After spending a good hour at the main building, we made out way to the newer long buildings at the other end of the property. Here we found buildings that seemed as though they had not been abandoned for too long, but that were completely ripped to shreds. It appeared as if a group of people spent a lot of free time making sure to bust up every ceiling tile, every toilet. We also found a number of used condoms. I find it interesting that someone would ever take a girl to a place like that and think, "Wow, this disgusting abandoned building is really turning me on!" But I am proud that they remembered to wrap it up. I just hope the laid a blanket down so the didn't get fiberglass insulation rash all over their butts. It was in the newer buildings that we found one of the more interesting and unexpected parts of the site: the massive underground areas. In the basement of one of theses buildings, we found a utility tunnel that led to an unending labyrinth of pillars and rooms. It was apparent that these area stretched all the way underneath the active buildings adjacent to the plant. These areas will require future explorations, I think, because we just didn't have the time on this day. As long as work doesn't begin in the near future, I'm sure I'll return.

08/15/06

Permalink 07:47:54 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 762 words   English (US)

Noah's Ark

I was quite lucky to have some time off from work a few weeks ago, so Silverstreak and I decided to make the trek to Mt. Ararat in Eastern Turkey to see if we could find any remains of the biblical Noah's Ark which is commonly thought to have landed there after the Great Flood. Unfortunately, the Turkish government wouldn't cooperate with our expedition, so we were forced to return home without even attempting to find the Ark.

In a strange twist of fate, it turns out that Noah's Ark did not land on Mt. Ararat as the Bible hints, but actually landed just off of the Missouri River in St. Charles, where it apparently had the perfect atmosphere for a resteraunt and until a few years ago was famous for having the best food in the St. Louis metro area (other than Eat Rite).

It wasn't terribly difficult to find, what with the plaster animals right next to the highway, and because it is attached to the Noah's Ark Best Western Hotel. Considering how much the thought of eating a meal in a boat that at one time must have certainly been full of animal poo makes my mouth water, it is strange that the resteraunt closed down a number of years ago. The Ark itself remains empty as does most of the hotel, aside from the first floor which is serving as office space for the Show-Me Aquatics company.

Silverstreak and I made our way into the interior of the Ark, which in many places is completely in ruins. There were a few glasses still hanging from the fixtures in the bar area, but most everything else is either broken or missing. This site is unique for me because it is one that I actually visited as a child when it was open. Most of the places I explore I was never able to see during their heyday. I remember eating there while looking at a large display case at one end where scene from the Bible tale of the Ark had been recreated in a sort of museum of history way. The case/scene is still there, although the animals and scenery are now gone.

The upstairs was much more interesting, with another lounge style bar, dance floor, and piano still remaining. From this floor we were able to reach the bow of the boat, where we had an excellent view of the St. Charles skyline (quite impressive, let me tell you). Silverstreak seemed to recall that after the Ark had closed as a restaraunt, it remained open for awhile as a bar called Tony's. We actually found the flourescent sign from that time upstairs, and after examining it realized that it must actually been called "Captain Tony's." The bathrooms also had some of the coolest wallpaper I have ever seen. It was so cool, in fact, that I really hope that when I get married some day, my wife will allow me to have similar wallpaper in our bathrooms. Nothing helps me to urinate better than thinking that I am being watched by multiple lions.

As we were leaving, we decided to check out the hotel. I knew that it was in use by an aquatics company, but we felt like walking around anyway. In the back parking lot, we found an old van painted as a zebra to represent the restaraunt/hotel. Man, would I love to find the owner of that van and make him an offer! It looked as though no one was driving it, since the plates expired in 2005.

The plan, as I understand it, is to tear down the hotel and restaraunt to make room for come condos, a movie theatre, an outside skating rink, and a water therapy center for the aquatics company. Who knows if and when that will happen. I do know that there is going to be a battle of the bands on the property soon, so you should all come out for that. It also appears that the St. Charles fire fighters are putting on their "Haunted Hotel" there again this halloween, but I would skip that because I heard it was pretty weak.

It will be sad to see the Ark go. It's been a landmark in St. Charles for years, and one that I remember from my childhood. Unfortunately, because of the shape of the Ark, restoring it might be too costly. You can see some pictures of the site when it was operating at this site: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tips/getAttraction.php3?tip_AttractionNo==769

07/02/06

Permalink 12:49:56 am, Categories: Urban Exploration, 356 words   English (US)

Camp Crowder

I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days at the, dare I say, legendary National Guard installation known fondly as Camp Crowder. It is located less than two miles from the major metropolis of Neosho Missouri, near Joplin. As you may be able to tell from my tone, I wasn't too enthused about my time there, but I did have a chance one evening to drive around the back areas of the camp, where I ran across an old abandoned section. What the different buildings once were, I can't say. Military installations are always a mix of new, old, and REALLY old and somewhat forgotten buildings. Sometimes, you even end up living in the forgotten buildings!!! Camp Crowder saw its heyday around the time of WWII, when it was home to the US Army Signal Corps, and was exponentially larger than the small Reserve training area it is today. Along with Camp Clark to the north, it was one of the places that Japaneese Americans were sent and esentially imprisioned by an unreasonably frightened nation after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Isn't history fun, kids?!

The main building I found appeared to be some kind of garage or vehicle maintenance shop, judging by the large "garage" type doors. Further down the old abandoned road there were some more buildings, including one that housed four or five large metal tanks. Were these fuel tanks at one time, or perhaps something more sinister.....like toxic mutant waste?!

Although it's still in use, one of the coolest parts of Camp Crowder's hidden areas is a large training site used to teach military police how to run a prisoner of war camp. It's basically a mock field prison, complete with guard towers and razor wire. I was only visiting, but was stripped and de-loused nonetheless. So bittersweet.

So many cool hidden sites to see.....that's why all of you should run out and join the National Guard. And, if by any chance, any one of you is actually taking me seriously at this point, let me know. I totally get money if I get someone else to enlist!

06/05/06

Permalink 04:11:05 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 471 words   English (US)

The Clemens House

Matt and I spent the morning a few days ago attempting to visit a couple of sites that had been on our list. I didn't find what I thought was an easy way into the Munitions Plant on Goodfellow, so we headed to the city to visit the Clemens Home. I had seen this place a few times before, but never stopped because of its location in a fairly high traffic area on a busy street. It had always seemed too visible, but a few guys I met while on an exploration a few weeks ago told me that they had been there a couple of times, so I figured it was high time that I, too, paid the Clemens House a visit.

The Clemens House is the historic home of James Clemens Jr., who was either an uncle or cousin of Samuel Clemens (and for those of you who didn't attend high school, Samuel Clemens was better known as Mark Twain). The main portion of the home was constructed in 1858 (note: that was before the Civil War!) with an addition on 1888. The Chapel was built in 1896 by the of St. Joseph of Carondelet when they aquired the property after the death of James Clemens. They remained the owners until 1979, when the building began to change hands quite a few times. Many different social groups used the site until around 2000, when it was finally vacated.

It wasn't completely vacated, however, as Matt and I definately ran into someone on the uppermost floor of the home. I was going up the main staircase by myself when I heard a door slam. I yelled to Matt to see if that was him. It wasn't, so I very casually returned to the previous floor. We were going to continue on and just not go upstairs until we started to hear voices. We figured it was better to leave that part of the house alone. I didn't feel too let down, because it seemed like most of the main house was uninteresting....and completely in shambles.

The chapel proved to be the most interesting part of the site. Matt and I spent a long time in the chapel taking photos and admiring the architecture that was beautiful despite its state of decay.

Many say that the city should not worry about saving the Clemens home since Samuel Clemens probably never spent any time there. I don't know if that's really the point. There are few buildings in the city as old or as beautiful as the Clemens Home. Sadly, the company that owns it has yet to stabilize the sagging columns of the front porch, and looters have stolen much of the priceless ornament off of the exterior. I can only hope that someone does something to save this place soon, before it's too late.

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